Get Familiar With the Business Behind Art Galleries

Including the challenges of selling Art in the Age of Instagram.

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Arts
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“Art is the currency of the infinite. I’m rich, I should know.” — Pablo Picasso

The second installment in Artsy’s ongoing The Art Market Series (in Four Parts) documentary explains how galleries and gallerists do business. It tells the story of a business like any other: disrupted by the Internet, artists and gallerists are constantly and desperately trying to find new ways to work around outdated and outmoded modes and adapt to the art world’s ever-shifting landscape. Brand-name artists like Damien Hirst, for example, have opted out of relationships with über-gallerists like Larry Gagosian, who function as high-earning middlemen between the artistic creators and their consumers and customers. The logic is that while these gallerists present a lucrative business opportunity for artists, their name brands — Gagosian, Pace, David Zwirner — have come to eclipse those of the artists they claim to benefit. Instead, Hirst takes his newly-produced pieces directly to the consumer—buyers at the Sotheby’s auction house. This direct form of transaction can spell disaster for the artist, however, because cosigns from noted galleries are usually a boon for upcoming creators.

Art galleries have also had to adapt to the rapidly-expanding Internet of Things. Consider the following: in 2014, just 1% of the art world’s sales were conducted online; in the course of just one short year, that number jumped to 7%. Old-school gallerists and curators were haughty when assessing this new type of consumer, claiming that online art purchases would max out at a measly $5,000 USD just two years ago. As you may have guessed, that number has since ballooned to $25K USD in the span of just a couple short years.

Watch the documentary above to learn more about galleries and gallerists, courtesy of some of the art world’s foremost talking heads, including: Elmgreen & Dragset, Josh Baer, Stefan Simchowitz and Sarah Thornton, and be sure to check out the first installment of the series to learn more about auction houses.

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Artsy

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